Big Data science, along with its methodologies and practices, has reshaped the landscape of the natural and social sciences. Much has been written about the benefits of Big Data’s contributions to advancing research, training, and encouraging engagement at the intersection of computation and society. Much less has been said about the existing and potential harms caused by Big Data. As the product of multiple sites of work, layered analytic techniques, experimental practices, and various competing discourses, Big Data must remain open to cultural, ethical, and critical challenges.
The Big Data & Society Critical Data Studies (CDS) special theme brings together established and emerging CDS researchers who seek a critical engagement with Big Data in various contexts, including food and agriculture, policing and governance, finance, environmental regulation, philosophy, statistics, epidemiology, and geography. Each of the articles focus on what Rob Kitchin has called “data assemblages”—apparatuses that contribute to or generate Big Data science, including systems of thought, forms of knowledge, finance, political economy, governmentalities and legalities, materialities and infrastructures, practices, organizations and institutions, subjectivities and communities, places, and the marketplace where data are constituted.
This project grew out of the Society for the Philosophy of Information’s Seventh Workshop, “Conceptual Challenges of Data in Science and Technology” (2015, University College London).